Thousands feared killed in Iran 'quake

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The Independent Online

As many as 10,000 people are feared killed in an earthquake that struck today in south-east Iran.

The earthquake, which measured 6.3 on the Richter scale, hit Bam at 5.28am Iranian time (01.58 GMT). The city is home to about 80,000 people and is 630 miles from the capital Tehran. More than half of Bam's homes were reported to be in ruins.

Hasan Khoshrou, who represents Kerman province in the parliament, gave the estimate of casualties after speaking to city officials. He said a helicopter survey indicated that more than 60 per cent of the houses had been destroyed.

"The quake hit the city when most of the people were in bed, raising fears that the death toll may go higher," he said.

The governor of the local province of Kerman, Mohammad Ali Karimi, said: "The death toll is very high."

"Many people are buried under the rubble," Karimi told state television. Later he told state radio: "We do not have any precise information. What is certain is that the old structure of the city has been totally destroyed."

Iran's Red Crescent, the Islamic equivalent of the Red Cross, said rescue and relief teams had been sent to Bam from numerous provinces, including Tehran.

"We are doing everything we can to rescue the injured and unearth the dead," the television quoted Karimi as saying.

Relief teams set up their headquarters in a public square in Bam because their offices in the governor's building had been ruined, Karimi told state radio.

The citadel of Bam was destroyed, television reported. The fortress was built of unbaked bricks about 2,000 years ago and it attracts thousands of tourists a year.

"The historic quarter of the city has been completely destroyed and caused great human loss," said Mehran Nourbakhsh, chief spokesman for the Red Crescent.

"Authorities have demanded immediate blood donations to save the lives of those who have been admitted to hospital in the provincial capital of Kerman," the television newscaster said.

She added telephone links with Bam have been severed. Authorities were in contact with the Bam area through radio and satellite phone links. The official Islamic Republic News Agency quoted the Red Crescent's Nourbakhsh as saying water and electricity links to Bam had also been cut.

The quake had several aftershocks, one of magnitude 5.3, IRNA quoted the geophysics institute of Tehran University as saying.

In a second earthquake measuring 4 on the Richater scale rocked the west Iranian town of Masjid Soleiman at 8.10am, but no casualties were immediately reported. The town is about 600 miles northwest of Bam.